ALTHOUGH very tempted to write something about the Mamasapano events I won’t other than to say that as “the truth” is such an illusory concept in the Philippines, in common with I think many others, I have little faith that any unadulterated version of events will ever surface. How can anything ever improve if mistakes are inadmissible?
So to avoid the temptation to write more on that disastrous matter I came across a survey recently carried out in the UK of the jobs that people would ideally like to have given a free choice. Opinion surveys in the UK generally tend to be objective and not subject to spinning for the sake of political agendas.
People were asked their preference from a list of 31 different jobs ranging from Formula One racing driver, model, Member of Parliament (Congressman) to refuse collector. The job thought most desirable was to be an author (60 percent), closely followed in second place by being a librarian (54 percent), and in third place an academic (51 percent). The least desirable job was being a miner, meaning being underground rather than in open cast operations. The next least desirable job at number 30 out of 31 was to be a call center agent, several places below being a refuse collector or a cleaner.
By my observation, having a job in a call center here in the Philippines is something which is much sought after, most likely because it is work that is within reach of many people, and in a nation of insufficient opportunities, that makes it an achievable prospect.
Being a Member of Parliament came out at number 13 of the 31 choices so clearly a political position in the UK is not as attractive as it is here, where the prospect of having big discretionary budgets is a lure to many. It ranked equal in appeal to having a job as a movie star and that is probably how people think around here—congressman/movie star, both routes to fame and riches.
It’s all a question of expectations, rewards and achievability. In the Philippines, people have been over time beaten into having low expectations. Keep your expectations low and there is less likelihood of disappointment. Many ordinary people have just given up, believing “there is no chance of me ever being able to achieve that and even if I did after 7 years of study qualify to be a medical doctor to get a job would be next to impossible and many of them don’t get paid too much anyway.”
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” says Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man. The way in which Philippines society operates certainly fights against that wisdom. But it’s not just the lack of job opportunity that the survey reflects; it’s the perceptions of people as to what is an attractive job in a fairly open market.
Authors and librarians in the UK, unless you happen to be a well published and famous author, don’t get paid too much so the desire for money is not a main driver—investment bankers are ranked at 21 out of 31, same position as firefighters—nor for that matter is the desire for fame, with movie star and astronaut coming fairly well down the list of choices. It seems to be about where people want to see themselves fitting into a society which allows a wide choice of work types. No doubt the people surveyed in the UK chose their preferences without hesitation as in that country, in general all things are possible. It is not the same in the Philippines, where life choices are made from an inadequate educational system for which there is a general inability to enter into an excruciatingly narrow job market, where once employed, the primary objective is to provide for dependents.
This is not an environment in which a middle class can grow and develop let alone provide the openness of opportunity necessary for the Philippines to grow into an advanced economy. The current GDP statistics much trumpeted by financial analysts are just creative accounting. Scant if any progress is made in motivating the population at large to believe that to become an author or a librarian here in the Philippines is a viable career choice. More work is needed to straighten out the “fundamentals”; only then can real economic and development progress be achieved!
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.